By Pastor Tunde Bakare…
Isaiah43: 18 and 19
“Do not remember the former things, nor consider the things of old. 19 Behold, I will do a new thing, now it shall spring forth; shall you not know it? I will even make a road in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.”
Fellow citizens of our great country, let me begin this annual State of the Nation broadcast with a preamble in the hope that mischief makers will give us the benefit of the doubt that we truly do what we do for two compelling reasons: love of God and love of country.
Many of you here today are living witnesses of what we went through, by the grace of God, after we placed an embargo in the spirit on the 2015 presidential election slated for February 14 to avert a bloodbath and national disintegration.
We all stood here in agonising corporate intercessions with fasting for fourteen days and nights from Sunday, February 1 to Saturday, February 14, 2015, to dismantle all the negative and counterproductive power blocs hindering the manifestation of a New Nigeria. We kept on pushing in the spirit until our political euroclydon was averted and a successful transition took place.
Those who neither saw what we saw nor heard what we heard thereafter began to disseminate ill – motivated rumours, concluding in confidential whispers to those who lent them their ears that we had joined forces with the opposition. May the good Lord in due season reward every true or pretentious stakeholder as his or her works had been, or shall be, in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Let me for the sake of posterity state clearly here that I am not an agent of any individual and, up till today, whatever I have done for any government, past or present, publicly or behind the scenes, I have done pro bono.
I recall with gratitude to God a conversation between Dr. Andrew Pocock, now Sir Andrew, the then British High Commissioner to Nigeria who was still in active service during the 2015 elections. After going up and down like a pendulum between the incoming and outgoing presidents, with stopovers at the residence of the British High Commissioner, he asked me a question: “What exactly do you want out of all these near impossible interventions?” I told him the story of how in 1994, while in the UK, my family applied for British passports for my wife and five children. Within the stipulated time, without a need to contact or visit any ‘connections’ at the British Passport Office, the passports arrived at our doorstep through the post. I then said to Dr. Pocock that I would like to see a nation that works like that in my lifetime and I am prepared to work alongside other patriots to make that happen. In correspondence following the elections, he noted with much appreciation my contributions to brokering peace and reconciliation behind-the-scenes. I seek no further reward or commendation than this. I believe God that I will see a nation that works in my lifetime.
Now, to those who are muttering and whispering untrue stories about us behind the scenes while laughing with us in public, our conviction is tamper-proof:
God will not forsake the righteous (Joshua 31:8; Psalm 37:25);
He will not justify the wicked (Exodus 23:7);
The righteousness of a righteous man will answer for him in times to come (Genesis 30:25-33);
And the wickedness of the wicked will pour upon his own head (Ezekiel 18:20).
And those in positions of authority who may believe or entertain their lies, I leave such with the words of Prophet Jonah: “They that observe lying vanities forsake their own mercy”. (Jonah 2:8; KJV) As for me, regardless of how I am perceived, I will continue to contribute my quota, as long as I breathe, to building an enduring and progressive nation. I hope the audience will pardon my long preamble. Now, to the theme of our State of the Nation broadcast:
ROADMAP TO SUCCESSFUL CHANGE
The buzzword in our nation today is “change”. It was perhaps the key word and message that brought President Muhammadu Buhari to power as he campaigned all over the country on APC’s platform.
Now that the election is over, it is incumbent upon us all, citizens and government, to do all in our collective power to ensure that we are not short-changed by the change we so desired and voted for. Therefore, to ensure we are on the same page regarding how we define change, I have chosen a text of Scripture by Apostle Paul who definitely knew about change. He wrote by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and from the depth of his personal transformative experience from Saul to Paul, in II Corinthians 3:18 (KJV):
But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.
The Greek word translated “changed” is metamorphoumetha, from which we get the word metamorphosis. Metamorphosis describes the process by which tadpoles lose their tails, grow legs, and become frogs; it is also the course through which caterpillars become butterflies. Metamorphosis involves changing into another form.
Fellow Nigerians, we cannot rearrange the old and label it the new – that is an exercise in self-deception or delusion. The tadpole has to be willing to change if it is going to become a frog. The caterpillar must be willing to give up being what it has always been, spin a cocoon around itself, and wait until it is fashioned into a butterfly. In like manner, We the People, and those we put in power to serve our collective interests, must be willing to die to our inglorious past. We must expect and accept a clearly defined pathway to what we collectively desire to become. We must turn our backs on what used to be if we are ever to become something new. That is the secret to successful change. To settle for less that this is to short-change ourselves.
Let me state clearly here that I firmly believe that change is possible. And, much more, I am fully persuaded that Nigeria can and will change for the better. My strong persuasion is based on the Word of God revealed to me in January 1996 as I was praying in Jerusalem during a conference. This revelation is contained in the Book of Zephaniah detailing the wickedness of Jerusalem just like we are today and the turnaround brought about by God Almighty.
First, the wickedness:
Zephaniah 3:1-5 (NKJV):
Woe to her who is rebellious and polluted, to the oppressing city! 2 She has not obeyed His voice, she has not received correction; she has not trusted in the Lord, she has not drawn near to her God. 3 Her princes in her midst are roaring lions; her judges are evening wolves that leave not a bone till morning. 4 Her prophets are insolent, treacherous people; her priests have polluted the sanctuary, they have done violence to the law. 5 The Lord is righteous in her midst, He will do no unrighteousness. Every morning He brings His justice to light; He never fails, but the unjust knows no shame.
Then, the turnaround:
Zephaniah 3:9-13 & 18-20 (NKJV):
“For then I will restore to the peoples a pure language, that they all may call on the name of the Lord, to serve Him with one accord.10From beyond the rivers of Ethiopia, My worshipers, the daughter of My dispersed ones, shall bring My offering. 11In that day you shall not be shamed for any of your deeds in which you transgress against Me; for then I will take away from your midst those who rejoice in your pride, and you shall no longer be haughty in My holy mountain. 12I will leave in your midst a meek and humble people, and they shall trust in the name of the Lord. 13The remnant of Israel shall do no unrighteousness and speak no lies, nor shall a deceitful tongue be found in their mouth; for they shall feed their flocks and lie down, and no one shall make them afraid.”
18 “I will gather those who sorrow over the appointed assembly, who are among you, to whom its reproach is a burden. 19 Behold, at that time I will deal with all who afflict you; I will save the lame, and gather those who were driven out; I will appoint them for praise and fame in every land where they were put to shame. 20 At that time I will bring you back, even at the time I gather you; for I will give you fame and praise among all the peoples of the earth, when I return your captives before your eyes,” Says the Lord.
I pray the Father that this will be our portion, in Jesus’ mighty name. Amen. Some of you will recall that, after that encounter, I returned to Nigeria to preach the message “From Shame to Fame because of His Name”. Nevertheless for that to happen, we all have to start acting differently at all levels: individual, organisational and societal. For this to happen a crystal clear direction must be provided by leadership at all levels: parents, teachers, CEOs, religious leaders and especially leaders in government.
WHAT DO WE NEED TO CHANGE?
We need to change our way of thinking and then doing. Only transformed people can transform nations. Difficult as it may seem, National Transformation is not rocket science. Even if it is, rocket scientists are not aliens from another planet – they are human beings like you and me. I will share further thoughts on this shortly;
We need to change our governance structure. The present system is severely wasteful. Left as is, it will continue to generate as well as perpetuate a syndicate of scams and profligacy at all levels of government;
We need to change our Grundnorm by creating a true federal system of government while making the welfare and security of our people the raison d’être of government;
We need to change our cash and carry judicial and legislative systems.
Thus, in order to obtain the new, we must release a decaying system that has arrested our development and growth as well as created a very wide gulf between the opportunistic elitist rich and unfortunate poor among our citizens. After all, the resources of the nation belong to all the citizens as clearly stated in: Ecclesiastes 5:8 & 9 (NKJV):
8 If you see the oppression of the poor, and the violent perversion of justice and righteousness in a province, do not marvel at the matter; for high official watches over high official, and higher officials are over them. 9 Moreover the profit of the land is for all; even the king is served from the field.
That being so, and in order to correct this abnormality, we must critically assess and evaluate our journey so far before adopting our new Road Map to Successful Change. I have chosen a parable for this critical evaluation.
THE PARABLE OF THE GREAT MANSION
A great mansion had a large and beautifully decorated banquet hall. Adjoining the hall were three large kitchens, each with a large storeroom. Each kitchen was unique and servants served various kinds of food and drink to the people in the hall. The banquet hall was filled with people eating, drinking, dancing and rejoicing. Suddenly, the security guards invaded the mansion, killed some servants, drove the rest out of the banquet hall, settled on the food, ate all they could, and carted some away. Then they broke down the great mansion and, with time, built another edifice. The new edifice had a large banquet hall and six large kitchens, though not as large as the initial three. Each kitchen had a number of storerooms. In all, there were a total of thirty-six storerooms in the edifice. The security guards hired a new set of servants to manage the edifice and handed the bunch containing all the keys to the servants. Thereafter, they relinquished control and returned to their duty posts. People came into the banquet hall to celebrate once again. This time, however, food and drinks were supplied only from one of the kitchens as the security guards had opened just one kitchen and left the others locked as they handed the keys over to the servants. In addition, the servants helped themselves to much of the food and drink and served only the leftovers. In no time, there was severe shortage and the people began to complain. Then those who dwelt in the new edifice, believing that their main problem was the theft of food by the dishonest servants, gave control to one among them, formerly a security officer, revered for his integrity and forthrightness. This was followed by much jubilation. However, the food shortage situation intensified and celebration was soon replaced by murmuring, grumbling and commotion, leaving the servants wondering what to do next.
Fellow Nigerians, welcome to the year 2016. In the course of this address, I shall shortly unravel the parable of the mansion, which is the parable of Nigeria. But, at this juncture, let us review 2015 as we take a critical look at the state of the nation.
2015 IN REVIEW
At the turn of the year 2015, in the wake of the centenary celebrations, and ahead of the general elections, the destiny of Nigeria hung in the balance. Never before, since the Civil War, has the pre-election atmosphere in our country been as tense and intense as it was between January and March 2015. As fears of post-election crises engulfed the nation, observers of the Nigerian political space, including the intelligence community, warned of the looming dangers.
At the beginning of last year, precisely on January 4 and 11, in a two-part series of State of the Nation addresses that caused tremors in the Nigerian political landscape, we warned of the “Gathering Storms and Avoidable Shipwreck” and gave the nation valuable counsel on “How to Avoid Catastrophic Euroclydon”. We advised the nation to postpone the elections and allow for a transitional period of restructuring. Expectedly, our position was severely mocked and our recommendations rebuffed when some mischievously opined that we were calling for an interim government.
Nevertheless, undeterred by the flood of criticism that accompanied our position and recommendations, right here on this platform, as earlier said, I placed an embargo on the elections. Then, at the prompting of the Holy Spirit, we embarked on a two-week fast to intercede for a nation that was hell-bent on its own course. Just before the conclusion of that season of intercession, the nation was face-to-face with some of the realities highlighted in our position. The electoral umpire made a volte-face and postponed the elections .
When it became clear that the nation had chosen its course, much like Israel’s rejection of divine counsel and insistent demand for a king, we stepped into the terrain to mediate between belligerent parties and to mitigate election risks. Time will fail me to tell further details of my behind-the-scenes engagement with the stakeholders ahead of the elections and how, by a whisker, our nation narrowly escaped the jaws of disintegration. Nevertheless, you will recall that as I lifted the prophetic embargo on elections on Sunday March 22, 2015, I sent out a warning:
“If anyone thinks PDP’s loss is going to be APC’s gain, he or she should think twice, for after the polls APC’s pain may be PDP’s gain”.
It turned out that, whereas the PDP lost to the APC in the general elections, bringing an end to sixteen years of misgovernance, the PDP brought pain on the APC in elections into the key offices of the National Assembly – an injury the APC is still trying to recover from. Fellow Nigerians, the lesson in all of these is to never despise prophecy.
THE STATE OF THE NATION: A PANORAMIC VIEW
We live in what may be described as trying times for our nation. President Muhammadu Buhari raised the alarm at his inauguration on May 29, 2015 when he noted that, “with depleted foreign reserves, falling oil prices, leakages and debts the Nigerian economy is in deep trouble…” He became even more direct on the state of the economy when he declared in October 2015, at the Africa-India Summit in New Delhi, India, that the country was broke and struggling to pay salaries. That declaration was severely criticized in various quarters and especially by the PDP .
However, an unbiased assessment of the economy based on major indicators paints a truly gloomy picture – from the 64% drop in year-on-year GDP annual growth rate as at July 2015, to the 2.354 trillion naira plunge in market capitalization as at December 2015; from the 66 billion dollar debt burden as at October 2015, to the 12.63% decline in foreign reserves between December 2014 and November 2015; from the 48% crash in oil prices between December 2014 and December 2015, to the 67% corresponding fall in crude revenue between September 2014 and July 2015. When these alarming economic indicators, together with the massive expenditure requirements, such as the 10 trillion naira annual infrastructure spending needs, are viewed against the backdrop of the reported lootings during previous administrations, one may start to understand the concerns of the president.
In addition to the economic challenges, the social indicators reveal that Nigerians generally live in less than adequate conditions with the latest Human Development Index (HDI) report, which is a composite statistic of life expectancy, education and income indices, placing Nigeria 153rd out of 188 countries.
Apart from the raging battle with insurgency in the North East, the political landscape has been marred by increasingly hostile clamours for self-determination as seen in pro-Biafra agitations in the South-East, sectarian violence in the North Central, tension in the North-West in relation to the sectarian activities of the Shiite Islamic sect, the increasing perception by the Southern intelligentsia of sectional bias by the government of President Muhammadu Buhari, and signs of resumption of violent agitation by militants in the South-South.
The Present 36 States of our “Federation”
In June 2015, barely two weeks into the current administration, we woke up to the alarming news that some states were unable to pay salaries, with at least one state owing 11 months in arrears. These states ran to the federal government which then arranged a special intervention fund for 27 states. On the heels of this development, the state governors have further disclosed the inability of their respective states to meet their minimum wage obligations. This underscores the non-viability of most of the 36 states, corroborating a 2013 report that only 4 states of the federation show signs of viability based on internal revenue generation .
Unravelling the Parable of the Great Mansion
The parable of the mansion is about the journey of our nation from abundance to the current economic downturn. The mansion is the Nigerian state. The banquet hall is the Nigerian economy. At Independence, Nigeria had 3 regions, each of them a significant economic powerhouse. These are the kitchens and storerooms. The kitchens represent the productive base of the respective regions at that time while the storerooms represent their latent resources. Just as each kitchen in the mansion served its unique menu to the banquet hall, each region made its unique contribution to the Nigerian economy. The Northern Region contributed to the centre through groundnut, cotton, and hides and skin production. The Eastern Region contributed to the national economy through oil palm and rubber production, while the Western Region contributed mainly through cocoa production. The result was prosperity for Nigeria, represented by the eating, drinking and rejoicing in the banquet hall.
The first set of servants who served in the mansion represents the first set of Nigerian leaders – the Nnamdi Azikiwes, the Obafemi Awolowos, the Ahmadu Bellos and the Tafawa Balewas who demonstrated selfless service. However, just as the security guards took over the house, the military took over government and killed some of our leaders through a coup. Just as the security guards pulled down the mansion, so the military dismantled the regional structure of the nation and laid our thriving Federal System in the vault of their Unitary System while largely enriching themselves through corruption.
However, during the interregnum, the military took the nation through a series of geopolitical experiments until thirty-six states were created and the nation was subsequently delineated along six geopolitical zones. These are the six kitchens in the new edifice put together by the security guards. As each kitchen had its storerooms, so does each zone have its states – thirty-six altogether.
The military handed power back to the politicians in 1999 just as the security guards handed the bunch of keys over to the subsequent set of hired servants. But just as only one kitchen and storehouse was open and active while the others were left shut, in like manner, the military and their successor politicians have focused on petroleum from the South-South as the main revenue source for the nation, neglecting the diverse resources spread across the six geopolitical zones. Besides, like the servants in the parable, Nigerian politicians, in the last sixteen years, enriched themselves with the nation’s oil wealth and fed crumbs to the Nigerian people, resulting in shortage and causing them to groan.
However, the Nigerian people, believing that corruption is the major problem of our land, have elected one whom we believe is the embodiment of anti-corruption – President Muhammadu Buhari. Nevertheless, few months into his administration, the groaning has intensified and now there seems to be a lot of confusion as to the way forward for Nigeria. In the words of Polybius, the Greek historian: “Those who know how to win are much more numerous than those who know how to make proper use of their victories”.
Fellow Nigerians, the way forward is what this address is all about. But first, let us identify what I call beacons of hope – encouraging signs of progress in spite of the social, economic and political upheavals.
BEACONS OF HOPE
We have seen what has been generally described as the anti-corruption body language of Mr. President. This president does “give a damn” as far as public declaration of assets is concerned. And so does the vice-president. We have also seen a seeming reduction in the size of government and the courts buzzing with anti-corruption cases. With respect to specific policies and strategies, I believe the following are commendable:
The focus on diversification of the economy;
Efforts aimed at recovering looted funds;
The implementation of the Treasury Single Account (TSA);
The retention and expansion of effective financial management tools and strategies such as Integrated Personnel and Payroll Information System (IPPIS) and Government Integrated Financial and Management Information System (GIFMIS) introduced by the previous administration;
The creation of the Efficiency Unit or E-Unit to ensure efficient use of allocations;
The 223% year-on-year increase in capital expenditure;
The reforms in the petroleum sector especially in relation to the structure, functions and management of the NNPC and the re-examination of the fuel subsidy conundrum; and
The infrastructure agenda with a phased strategy for roads, housing and power.
A Critical Assessment of Our National Trajectory
Any fair assessment of this administration must be carried out in the context of promises made to Nigerians during elections. Therefore, our assessment shall be against the backdrop of the top campaign promises of Mr. President, the president’s inaugural address, and the APC manifesto. Hence, by asking salient questions as we go on, we shall examine the policies on five major issues namely:
i. Economic diversification
iii. Human Capital Development
iv. National Security and
v. Critical Aspects of Financial Management
We must examine the diversification thrust not just in terms of the over-reliance of the federal government on petroleum for export revenue but also in the failure of state and local governments to internally generate revenue. How can we effectively diversify the economy as regards mining and allied industries, for instance, without taking another look at Item 39 of the Exclusive Legislative List of the 1999 Constitution which confers powers in this regard exclusively on the federal government? This provision hampers the ability of states to generate income and create jobs through investment in solid minerals. Is it a coincidence that every state of the federation is endowed with mineral resources? Would it not be a better strategy for states to be empowered to manage these resources?
The need for diversification also brings to the fore the question of viability of states in relation to the need for economies of scale. Can the states, as presently constituted, maximize their endowments even if more power were to be devolved to them? This, I believe, also explains the inability of states to optimize agriculture as it is on the Concurrent Legislative List.
This introduces to the debate the need for a zonal or regional approach to national development, and in this regard we ask: is it sheer coincidence that the nation’s bio-geographical features, including the vegetation belts and rivers, roughly divide the landscape into six geographical zones? Shouldn’t these zones provide a basis for economic mapping and development? Why were the regions in the days of our Founding Fathers so economically viable to the extent of sustaining the federal government? Why can’t we begin a geo-economic path to geopolitical restructuring? Who is afraid of zonal commissions and geopolitical zones; and, if I may add, who is afraid of zonal federating units? Time has come for us to “feed our faith” in this regard and “starve our fears to death”.
According to the Minister for Power, Works and Housing, of about 200,000 kilometres of total road networks in the country, the federal government owns 16% or 36,000km which bear an estimated 70% of the total traffic. The state governments own 18% and the local governments control the remaining 66%. According to the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), out of Nigeria’s total road network of 200,000km, only about 30,000km is paved. It is perhaps safe to assume that federal roads constitute the majority of paved roads.
A transportation infrastructure map often reflects the socio-economic profile. These statistics suggest at least two gruesome facts: firstly, that most states and local governments lack the needed capacity to maintain an efficient network of roads and, secondly, given the low traffic on those roads, that the federating units have been unable to facilitate the evolution of vibrant sub-national and local economies that can in turn feed into the national and global economy. The need for such local economies is in keeping with the argument that small and medium enterprises are the heart of any national economy. The inability of the federating units to comfortably fund infrastructure projects is an aberration in a federal system.
Despite the massive investment in the power sector, the short-term target of 6000 megawatts has remained a mirage. As at mid-December 2015, electricity generation stood at 3,730.24 megawatts. Have we exhausted options with respect to electricity generation, transmission and distribution? Is deregulation without devolution a sustainable pathway to uninterrupted electricity supply? Must the national grid constitute a gridlock to progress?
Why can’t the state governments, working as zonal blocs, come together with the federal government, to design an inter-modal transport system, as well as a hybrid power infrastructure model, along the lines of regional comparative advantage, and begin to push for the appropriate legal regimes to facilitate its implementation? Why can’t we allow for electricity generation, transmission and distribution at the zonal, state and community levels, such that domestic consumption needs are met at the sub-national levels, while the national grid becomes an electricity exporting vehicle serving the rest of West and even Central Africa, generating income for the federation that could be distributed on the derivation principle based on percentage generation?
Human Capital Development
Central to human capital development is the education of our people. However, there is a regional or zonal dimension to the state of education in the country in terms of access. While 56.75% of the population in the North-East is uneducated, 54.85% of the North-West and 30.3% of the North-Central population lack access. In the southern zones, the uneducated population statistics are: 14.35% for the South-West, 14.7% for the South-East, and 9.55% for the South-South. These disparities are brought about by socio-cultural, security, economic, and, sometimes, geographical factors. In light of these statistics and causal factors, is it not common sense policy-making to have zonal regulation of education, with each zone charged with the responsibility of developing qualitative and quantitative human capital in order to maximize the peculiar potential of the respective zone, in line with a national vision that links education to industrialization?
Given the circumstances, the government may have already begun to do all within its power to combat terrorism. However, considering regional, geographical and cultural peculiarities, why not allow zonal coalitions of states to design and implement regional security strategies in conjunction with the federal government? Why have we bought into the deceptive notion that the security of our nation will be hampered if we introduce policing at federal, regional, state and community levels?
Consider the exploits of the Civilian JTF (Joint Task Force) in Borno State and imagine them to have been part of a regional or even a state police force in their own familiar terrain. Who can tell what a devastating impact such a formidable local force could have had on insurgents and terrorists, especially in terms of intelligence gathering, had they been a much more organised and well-coordinated security force? The earlier we remove the legal bottlenecks in the way of achieving the maximisation of our local resources in this regard, the better our chances of defeating insurgents and terrorists in record time.
At this juncture, given the resurgence of the subsidy conundrum, it has become needful to pre-empt or respond to those who might be wondering if our January 2012 protests were organized in error. Let me reiterate that the Save Nigeria Group (SNG) did not mobilize the people of this country to the Gani Fawehinmi Park at Ojota merely to protest the removal of the fuel subsidy but to challenge the corruption that defined the fuel subsidy regime. Even at that time, we recognized the unsustainability of the subsidy regime but maintained that corrupt politicians, in collusion with certain private interests, had plundered the national treasury through fictitious fuel subsidy claims and were merely hiking the fuel price to mobilize funds to cover up the negative effects of their actions on the economy. We insisted then that it was not a deregulation as was being claimed by the government but a hike in fuel price. We demanded the prosecution of those indicted in the damning report of the Farouk Lawan Committee, a phenomenon we referred to as “Kleptocracy Unlimited”, where, for instance, 999 million naira was reportedly paid 129 times, totalling 127,827 billion naira, to some companies, by the office of the Accountant-General of the Federation.
Four years later, those indicted persons have not been prosecuted. Do we still need to wonder why corruption is so endemic and very pervasive in our nation today? Here is the verdict of Heaven:
Ecclesiastes 8:11-13 (NKJV):
11 Because the sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil. 12 Though a sinner does evil a hundred times, and his days are prolonged, yet I surely know that it will be well with those who fear God, who fear before Him. 13 But it will not be well with the wicked; nor will he prolong his days, which are as a shadow, because he does not fear before God.
Is it not shameful that we have been subsidizing consumption and practicing the economics of laziness? As stated in Proverbs 12:27 (NKJV):
The lazy man does not roast what he took in hunting, but diligence is man’s precious possession.
Is it not laziness of the highest order that one of the largest producers of crude oil in the world exports crude and imports refined products at cut-throat costs? It is incomprehensible laziness that an oil producing country would decline to zero refining capacity! There is no gainsaying the fact that we have become the laughing stock of other oil producing countries in the world.
It is in our collective interest to bring this aberration to an end, taking advantage of the dip in oil prices to effect a phased replacement of the subsidy regime with domestic production. Whereas the buzzword in the subsidy debate is “subsidy removal”, we are advocating “subsidy replacement”. Subsidy replacement would entail the adoption of targeted palliatives that would ensure that the benefits of intervention get to the so-called average Nigerian for whom it is designed while taking steps to restore full capacity for domestic production. This must be communicated effectively and transparently to stakeholders including the labour unions.
A crucial step in transparent communication would be full investigation into the past five years of the subsidy regime and the prosecution of culprits including those indicted in past probes. Transparent communication would also entail explaining to Nigerians why the pump price of fuel has not had a direct proportional relationship with changing global crude oil prices such that the pump price is adjusted with every significant drop in oil prices. For example, it will be very interesting to know what happened with respect to the landing cost of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) between June 2014 when the price of crude was 115 dollars per barrel, and January 2015 when it fell below 50 dollars per barrel.
Without a doubt, the ultimate solution to the subsidy conundrum lies in optimally functional refineries. While we appreciate the current efforts towards restructuring the downstream sector, we also need to explore innovative approaches to domestic refining; in this regard, the need for modular refineries cannot be overemphasized.
In relation to the upstream sector, we maintain that now that crude is fast losing its value, is the best time to diversify, and that diversification can only succeed when accompanied with devolution of powers in a restructured federal system. Indeed, the summary of our assessment of the entire framework of governance and public policy is that, without restructuring, this administration may achieve little or no significant and sustainable success.
Critical Aspects of Financial Management
First, flowing from the issue of fuel subsidy, the government must examine carefully the argument by economists that sound monetary policy, including proper management of the exchange rate regime by the CBN, would eliminate the need for subsidies. The intricate connection between monetary policy on the one hand, and the fuel subsidy debacle on the other, makes the management of the CBN a major concern.
As regulator, the CBN keeps some amount of depositors’ funds on behalf of the commercial or deposit money banks thereby controlling liquidity, which is the amount of money in circulation. It does this by what is called the Cash Reserve Ratio (CRR), which is the percentage of depositor’s funds that every commercial bank must keep with the CBN. Over the years, the CBN, through its CRR and interest rate policies, has been increasing the amount of money in circulation, creating a situation known as excess liquidity. It then goes on to buy back this excess money in circulation by issuing treasury bills to the same banks and other investors through the Open Market Operations (OMO); a monetary policy tool used in buying or selling short term government securities (Treasury Bills) to control money supply. Simply put, the government tells the banks, “give me your excess money (which I have unwittingly or generously created for you) and I will pay you back with interest”.
Roughly put, it is almost like an already heavily indebted shop owner selling goods at a discounted price, such that the buyer is able to purchase much more than he is able to transport home. Then the shop owner offers to store the excess goods in his own store and to pay the buyer heavy interest when he returns to collect the goods. The same indebted store owner then cries out, “I’m broke o! My debt burden is killing me o!”
To the discerning, the CBN currently contributes negatively to the Nigerian state in more ways than one. Firstly, the CBN has become a conduit for politicians to drain the nation. Otherwise, how can a letter of barely two paragraphs addressed to the current CBN Governor, Mr. Godwin Emefiele, by the then National Security Adviser (NSA), Col. Sambo Dasuki (rtd.), become the Authority to Incur Expenditure (AIE) leading to cash flow of $47 million (US dollars) and several millions of euros? In decent climes, the CBN Governor cannot continue in office while the NSA is accounting for his alleged misdeeds.
Secondly, another negative contribution by the CBN is the needless obscurity it has created regarding currency in circulation. It was not so in the past. For instance, S. 43 (2) of the CBN Decree (now Act) No. 24 of 1991 stipulates:
without prejudice to the provision of S1 of this section, the President may direct the Auditor General of the Federation to conduct an examination of the Bank, and submit a report thereon relating to the issue, re-issue, exchange and withdrawal of currency notes and coins by the Bank and the Bank shall provide all necessary facilities for the purpose of the examination.
This vital sub-section was completely removed in the current CBN Act 2007, thereby making it possible for the CBN to decide the printing of the Nigerian currency, amounts to be printed, currencies to be destroyed (of which the CBN staff can take as much of such dirty notes as they like and inject back into the system while keeping all of us in the dark) without any check and balances stipulated in S. 43 (2) of the previous CBN Act No. 24 of 1991.
This major lacuna has not only aided and abetted corruption, it presently compounds the fight against corruption especially in the apex bank.
We need to remind ourselves some basic truths about the CBN:
i. That the apex bank is not a conglomerate of the Rothschilds, the Rockefellers and the Morgans;
ii. That the CBN is not a privately-controlled banking agency; and
iii. That the CBN is simply not the US Fed.
The wealth of the Central Bank of Nigeria belongs to the people of Nigeria, not the Governor and staff of the CBN. Our foreign reserves could be used to drive infrastructural development with a view to building a strong local industrial base and ensuring a solid financial services sector rather than for political and unaccountable misadventures. It is important to add that, rather than mere devaluation of the naira, a strong local productive base that widens Nigeria’s foreign exchange window is the lasting solution to the lingering currency crisis, especially the shortage of the dollar relative to the naira.
Finally, if we are serious about sound financial management, a more significant reduction in the size and cost of running government will be required than this present administration has been able to effect. The government re-sizing process has been hampered by structural anomalies and constitutional constraints. For instance, of what use is a bloated legislature that could potentially gulp 25% of the entire national recurrent budget? Of what use is a profligate governmental structure characterized by minuscule but treasury-draining federating units? Of what use is a constitutional provision for the appointment of thirty-six ministers even when we have no need for so many?
As for the state governments, care must be taken not to provoke the rage of poorly paid civil servants by reducing the minimum wage of already impoverished workers. What they should do is devise a reasonable policy direction that will lead to a reduction in the salaries of politicians and political appointees, reduce security votes, significantly trim the size and cost of governance, and then embark on vigorous revenue mobilization strategies.
THE STATUS QUO IN PERSPECTIVE
Fellow Nigerians, let it be known that in spite of the rejection of our pre-election call for a transition period, Nigeria is now a nation in transition. This transition period will predictably be followed by a revolution which will, in turn, be followed by a reformation that will eventually usher in the desired transformation of our nation. A key outcome of this process will be the emergence of a true People’s Constitution that will facilitate national integration and provide a suitable governmental framework for the Nigeria of our dreams – “a truly federal state with such powers vested exclusively on the federal government as are necessary to firmly and prosperously knit together the federating units upon which residual powers shall be vested”. That promise of true federalism is contained in Article 14 of the Nigerian Charter for National Reconciliation and Integration, which was unanimously adopted and signed by the delegates to the 2014 National Conference, including myself, as the basis of our union. I appeal to Mr. President not to ignore the report of the 2014
National Conference! God went ahead of you to provide a navigational map with which you can begin to steer the ship of state to a safe destination. The APC may have refused to participate in the 2014 National Conference, but the report of that conference is completely in tandem with the promise of the APC Manifesto. The APC Manifesto and the report of the 2014 National Conference are a tag team in waiting, not a thesis and antithesis. Just as this government adopted the Integrated Personnel and Payroll Information System (IPPIS), the Government Integrated Financial Management Information System (GIFMIS) and the Treasury Single Account (TSA), which were conceived by the Goodluck Jonathan administration, the Buhari-led government should embrace the report of the 2014 National Conference. That report may have been produced under a PDP government but it is not a PDP document. It is a Nigerian people’s document. All the delegates to the 2014 National Conference, East, West, North, and South endorsed the report without a single vote on any issue.
2016: HIGHER GROUNDS AND GREATER HEIGHTS
For Nigeria, the year of higher grounds and greater heights is the year of restructuring. It is the year when we can begin to rebuild her structures towards a new political order characterized by true and viable federalism that will usher in a new economic order.
As I stated in a previous address titled “Nigeria Beyond 2015”: “One of the first fruits of this new economic order will be the emergence of Regional Economic Zones. In this regard, Nigeria will experience the rise of megacities across the six geopolitical zones such that there will be six unique models of the Dubai experience” .
The Dubai model will integrate communities, districts, states and geopolitical zones around efficient governance, human capital development, infrastructural development, socio-cultural development, safety and security. Each of these “Dubais” will constitute an economic hub integrating the states within each geopolitical zone such that at least six states will be integrated into a zonal hub; each of the current 36 states will, in turn, facilitate the rise of an economic hub integrating three senatorial districts; and each of the senatorial districts will, in turn, facilitate the emergence of an economic hub integrating the Local Government Areas within their delineation. Internal revenue generation and massive job creation will be the outcome so much so that the federating units, being empowered to harness the resources within their respective jurisdictions, will fund a regionally and globally influential and powerful federal government. Such structural re-arrangement, backed by good governance at all levels, will facilitate tremendous improvement in standard of living, bring our people out of poverty and facilitate the prosperity and wellbeing of Nigerians.
In conclusion, I have observed that this government has been laying emphasis on 2 Ds – Deregulation and Diversification. However, the diversification policy cannot be pursued without Devolution and to devolve effectively means to restructure the geo-polity and review our forms of government. Therefore, the government needs to update to 3 Ds. We cannot afford to sweep devolution of powers under the carpet.
To the government and people of Nigeria, I say: “use the keys”! The bunch of keys in the parable of the mansion represents the power of government bestowed on it by the people – the power to give the nation the needed structural, cultural, institutional and constitutional change. Rather than bemoan the depletion of our revenues or complain about how broke the nation is, all we need do is use the keys to unlock the staggering potential of our great nation, to empower the various geopolitical zones to develop at their respective paces, and to facilitate the emergence of viable federating units that can contribute meaningfully and diversely to the common goal of building a great and prosperous nation.
Mr. President, Sir, please use the keys and make real the promise of change! There is no better time than now! Go, PMB, GO! For such a time as this, God and Nigerians have brought you back into power. Like an arrow in the hands of Almighty God, hit the main target. Make hay while the sun shines. Strike the iron while it is hot and trust God and posterity to judge you right for saving Nigeria from a self-imposed debilitating structural defect. Remember, only those who dare drive the world forward.
Thank you for listening. God bless you, and God bless Nigeria.
Pastor ‘Tunde Bakare
The Latter Rain Assembly, Lagos, Nigeria
The Convener, Save Nigeria Group.
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